Holidays to Siracusa aren’t just about visiting Baroque piazzas, ancient Greek ruins, and world-class museums. There’s also the Ionian Sea constantly telling you to put your guidebook away.
In the ancient world, Siracusa stood toe-to-toe with Athens in terms of sheer beauty and world influence, attracting the likes of Plato and Aeschylus to its shores. Today, it’s one of Sicily’s most-visited destinations, offering a combination of historic sights and chic Italian style. Ortigia island, a square-kilometre packed with Baroque palazzos, piazzas and fountains, is the heart of the action. And the Greek ruins in the north of the city are some of the best in all Sicily.
The old city
Ortigia island is connected to the mainland by 3 bridges. Walk across Ponte Nuovo and head for Piazza Duomo, a gleaming, alabaster-white square. Its centrepiece is the cathedral, a Baroque masterpiece built on top of the ancient Temple of Athena. In nearby Piazza Archimedes, named after the city’s most famous son, there’s the Fountain of Diana. And from here you can navigate Corso Matteoti and Via Roma, where boutiques, trattorias and pavement cafés vie for your attention. Another option is to stroll along the Lungomare to the Byzantine castle that overlooks the sea.
You won’t see any long, sandy beaches in Siracusa, but there’s a handful of bathing platforms on Ortigia island, perched above the crystalline Ionian Sea. If you’re intent on finding sand, just 15 minutes’ drive away is Arenella Beach, a wide expanse of fine golden powder that melts into the shallow, child-friendly sea. There’s a wide choice of restaurants and bars here, plus kayaks and pedalos for rent.
Siracusa’s former glories come to life at the Archaeological Park of Neapolis, a 5-minute bus ride from the town centre. This large site has an important Greek theatre, which is still used for summer performances. Elsewhere, you’ll find limestone quarries, plus the Ear of Dionysius, a manmade grotto where slaves where once kept. And 5 minutes’ walk from the park is Paolo Orsi Museum, one of the country’s very best archaeological museums.
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